Hyundai Aura first drive review: A compact sedan with expansive dreams
With SUVs of all shapes and sizes crossing segment borders and hunting with grit, sedans and compact sedans have had it quite rough in the Indian auto market over the past several months. The competition within the compact sedan segment itself has been extremely close with the like of Maruti Suzuki Dzire and Honda Amaze battling it out for the spoils.
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Xcent, honestly, never really had much of a chance to challenge the big boys here but Hyundai has sought to reinvent itself by bringing in an all-new player - Aura. Packed with features, offered in a number of engine options and designed to command a second look - for the better or the worse, the Aura is a manifestation of Hyundai's bold dreams to not just mark a presence in the compact sedan segment but to possibly wear its much-coveted crown.
Does Hyundai Aura then have the right mix to indeed rise above its rivals and inject life into the segment it falls in? Read on.
The Aura is offered in the market along with the Xcent and not in place of it. Little wonder then that it seeks to have a completely different visual appeal from its sedan sibling and turns to its younger sibling - Grand i10 Nios - for inspiration.
That the Aura and Grand i10 Nios share common visual gene is amply clear from the car's hexagonal 'cascading' grille which is only slightly smaller here and now with satin grey trim. The sweptback projector headlights and twin LED DRLs are also imported into the Aura but the DRLs now sit on the grille. The bonnet has been sculpted with two vertical lines adding some definition and the overall appeal from this angle is quite pleasing.
Hyundai designers may have let their imagination and artwork get ahead of themselves by the time they reached the rear profile because from here, the Aura appears to be trying a bit too much. The Z-shaped tail lights and the chrome strip running between the two could well invite contrasting opinions but definitely appear to be a little too extravagant - and not in the appreciative sense.
The side profile, however, follows the principle element observed from the front - that of keeping things simply stylish. The R15 diamond cut alloys look nice while the short character at the start and then again at the rear are done really well.
Engineering an Engine. And Driving It
Under the hood, Aura gets a long list of options that has the potential to keep everyone interested. There is a 1.2 litre petrol motor, a 1.2 litre diesel, a 1.2 litre petrol with CNG option as well as a 1.0 litre turbo petrol.
This review is based on the first and the last options in petrol but it is important to mention here that Hyundai claims its diesel unit - which is also BS 6 compliant - is its cleanest and most efficient ever.
The 1.2 litre petrol motor though is likely to seek maximum attention and could perhaps justify it as well. With peak figures of 82 bhp and peak torque of 114 Nm, it is eager but not overbearing. Couple that with a 5-speed manual transmission which is reasonably smooth, the drive is satisfactorily pleasant for a compact sedan. The 1.2 petrol and diesel variants also get AMT options.
The 1.0 turbo petrol too builds on more of the same and while moving towards the 2,000 RPM mark is a tad laborious, the extra punch is there for the taking from here on. The car truly drives to its strengths once it is in the top gear and the ripe RPM range is reached. The more powerful petrol offers 98 bhp of power and torque of 171 Nm, and with the same claimed fuel efficiency of 20.5 kmpl as the 1.2 litre petrol option.
The ride quality is several steps above the Xcent thanks to really well-cushioned seats which are especially bolstered - at least the front seats, to control body roll. The suspension is a bit on the stiffer side which would make the Aura deal well with small craters at moderate speeds but the car used in this review suffered from over inflated tyres for most parts which resulted in artificial jerks for the rear passengers. Once the tyre pressure was restored, the contrasting comfort was evident.
The steering on the Aura is easily one of the lightest in a Hyundai but the company may have recaliberated it to feel better. True, it takes precise and eager turns and deals with corners well but feedback from the wheel is still somewhat lacking.
Feature Focus and Intent on Interior
Much like most Hyundai cars, the Aura has been equipped to the brim with features galore. While the company claims that there are at least 14 segment firsts or 'best in segment' features, the noteworthy among these are an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system which also doubles up as a driver rear-view monitor. The Aura also gets wireless phone charging functionality, a 1346 cm digital speedometer with multi-information display, cruise control, dual front airbags as standard and rear parking camera. There is also a segment first emergency stop signal which flashes automatically in case of sudden braking.
Aura has a positive feel about it, an aura indeed, when it comes to the cabin which gets a satin bronze addition on the dash, dual-tone grey interiors except for in the turbo variant which gets an all-black theme, glovebox cooling, rear arm rests with cup holders, rear AC vents and decently large windows. Despite a slight slope where the roof falls - around the C pillar, there is not much compromise on the head room while the leg room for rear passengers too are adequate. Knee room could have been a bit better but the under-thigh support more than makes up for it and ensures that the priority remains on comfort. Hard plastics are aplenty but that is only expected in a car in this segment.
The 'For Whom' and 'Not' of it All
Aura is a strong statement of intent from Hyundai to not just prove itself in the compact sedan segment but to indeed mount a challenge to its more established rivals. It is not only several steps above Xcent but takes the fight right to the Maruti and Honda camps.
That it is offered in a BS 6 diesel engine option will help it gain some points who like the grunt but even in its petrol and turbo petrol options, the Aura has much going for it. Small families of four looking beyond a small car as their first buy can definitely keep Aura high up in their list of considerations. Those who are feature conscious too can't really go wrong with it.
The Aura, however, is unlikely to sway people back to the compact sedan segment, especially those who are significantly taken by the idea of an SUV. And that is not a shortcoming specific to Aura but to the compact segment as it stands today. This here is for the dedicated sedan buyer who is looking for more bang for his/her buck while also getting a completely new package in the process. Starting at ₹5.79 lakhs (ex showroom) and with a variable warranty package - choice between 3 years/100,000 kms, 4 years/50,000 kms, 5 years/40,000 kms, Hyundai is really gunning for glory.